First, I'll say this review is chock full of spoilers, so if you haven't read the book yet, don't read this. Part of the beauty of the book is letting it unfold as it happens, so don't ruin that for yourself.
When I first started this book, it feel pretentious and trite to me because of the predictable feeling, very Tobias Wolff's Old -School, of the (perhaps unrealistic) uber-literate school boys who compete to see who can be the smartest. But then, Barnes presents the boys as they grow up and we see the rest of Tony's (oh, how he'd hate that bit of familiarity, wouldn't he?) story.
Story is so important to this book. It seems the living (almost breathing) embodiment of Joan Didion's idea that "we tell ourselves stories in order to live." How true that statement is for Tony, who lives his life based on how he sees and how he presents his story, complete with his visions and revisions (can great reviewers steal too, Eliot?). What's most interesting about Tony's story is that we really only know HIS story. There are no magical devices or unrealistic events that unfold so that we can know it all; we only know what Tony would know, even as unsatisfying as that may feel at first.
We don't really have an ending, just a sense of an ending, as the title tells us. But, isn't that life? We ourselves do not find it all out. There are stories that exist that we'll never know, yet we carry on. And, isn't that Margaret's point, when she tells the story about the nanny and the diary? Sometimes we seek to know it all, to find out the ending, we end up learning things that we'd be better off not knowing. Yet, from Adrienne's choices, we see that trying to create your own perfect ending, with his philosophically justified suicide(which seemed by the end to be as silly as the boys saying things are "philosophically self-evident"). Adrienne's choice to commit suicide and create this ending is undermined by his actions with Veronica's mother (Veronica who ended up quite damaged after all, almost all because of her interaction with Tony). Through his son, Adrienne's life and story continue on, just as our lives never really end, but live on in some way, however indirect.
The other interesting part of the book is the way history is presented. We often think of history as the BIG events where "something happens" either before, during, after, or because of times of "great unrest." Barnes shows history as personal. And, in this personal account, we see how fragmented, revised, changeable and malleable history can be, even at a personal and perhaps somewhat insignificant level. If this is what happens to our own histories, then how much more complex and complicated is our presentation of larger and more influential historical events?
I loved almost all of the 4 hours and 38 minutes of this book, except for a bit of the masturbation stuff. Maybe I'm just being a prude, but other than showing just how "sex hungry" (a quote from the book's description) Tony was as a young man, some of it just felt well, masturbatory, with no real significance to the book.
I don't mean that this story was confusing, just for the sake of confusion. It's rather the novel kept me in a constant state of confusion about how I felt about the narrator, the mother, the daughter, and the situation itself. I spent most of the book wondering how the narrator was going to survive and make it through the spread of the language virus, while also hoping that perhaps he'd die and I'd finally be able to hear the daughter or the mother's side of things. Given the theme of the book, I think this response is the exact one that Marcus intended for us.
I've read other reviews that didn't like the beauty of the language. I did. And, I enjoyed the dark, sick humor that would occur at the most unexpected of places.
Overall, I'm glad that I read this book and it makes me want to know more of Marcus and his work.
I've loved A Wrinkle in Time since I was a child. This narration of the book is quite refreshing. While there was a certain charm to listening to L'Engle narrate her own story, Hope Davis breathes a certain nuance and understanding to the story that only a talented narrator can add. Davis's interpretation of Mrs. Which (the hardest character to narrate, I think) was quite good.
I've read this book many times before and it was a pleasure hearing it read aloud to me. I heard many details that I had missed in earlier readings.
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